Standing on top of a peak that you've conquered yourself while staring at panoramic Rocky Mountain views is an awe-inspiring and unforgettable moment. At the Mt Norquay Via Ferrata in Banff, this is exactly what guests are treated to. Both accessible and requiring no previous experience, guests summit Mt Norquay using a climbing harness, their hands, and feet – a truly transformational experience in a protected place. Having never rock climbed before, I found this adventure extremely accessible and rewarding.
This is an adventure that anyone capable of hiking can do with no rock or mountain climbing experience needed. Guides fit guests with a helmet, harness, gloves and if needed, hiking boots before starting on one of four routes. Each route has a suspension bridge crossing, ladders, and all are built with cable lines that guests secure themselves into with carabiners. Three out of four via ferrata routes take guests to the top of Mt Norquay for the ultimate views of the surrounding mountains, river, and lakes. While on the way up, we saw wildlife including Bighorn Sheep grazing high up where they're most at home. If a relaxed and short trip is on the agenda, the 2.5 hr Explorer route might be the one for you, as it does a gentle loop going half as high as the other three routes.
Guests are fitted for gear at the base of the mountain before riding up the chairlift to the Cliffhouse Bistro. You'll want to pack good hiking shoes, weatherproof pants, warm layers for cold days, sunglasses, water, a snack, your camera, and a small backpack. Don't have the gear? No problem. Mt Norquay has you taken care of and can happily lend you hiking boots, gloves, jackets, and pants.
After ascending to the Cliffhouse Bistro it's time to start your journey. From here the ascent starts on foot to the destination of your chosen route. Staying in a close group, your guide provides the interpretive experience that you come to expect from a true local.
Walking on a hiking-like trail you'll come up to sets of ladders that are built into the mountain. Climbing up, clipping in and clipping out, the journey begins to ascend up the mountain while getting a close-up look at a true alpine environment. My favourite parts of this section were the suspension bridge and the perfect photo op – holding onto the ladder like you're seemingly hanging off the side of a mountain. From here we made our way to the top where snacks and drinks are enjoyed with the best view in Banff.
It almost seems like you can never get enough photos to do the view justice from up there, and that's probably true. This is an unforgettable experience that puts travel, adventure, and our life experiences into perspective. From here we could see the turquoise glacial colours of the Bow River, a train winding through the valley like a snake, Vermilion Lakes and the tiny canoes on them, and the iconic Mount Rundle.
While descending from the top we met our friends, the Bighorn Sheep, that seemed to look at us with questioning, yet tame eyes. I'm sure we were the ones out of our element, not them.
Each tour then finishes back at the Cliffhouse Bistro where local beers from the Banff Avenue Brewing Company are served on tap, authentic and locally sourced Rocky Mountain cuisine is served, and again – unbeatable views.